REVIEWED: Night Sky MiniScope

A telescope for your iPhone? This portable 50x optical zoom super-charges phoneography, but lacks focus finesse

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Travelling with a DSLR camera is a pain, and unless you’ve got a monster lens and an all-round pricey set-up there’s no way you’re going to be photographing the Moon on your travels. The Night Sky MiniScope is attempt to put a huge zoom lens on your iPhone to let you take images of the Moon, and even the stars, and all within a polished planetarium app.

Easy to set-up

The planetarium app in question is The Night Sky from iCandi Apps, which is one of the best around – the latest version even has a World Traveller mode that senses your recently changed latitude and longitude. Very handy. The Night Sky MiniScope works from within the app itself. Simply attach one of the cases in the (very swish) box for your iPhone model (iPhone 4 or above), screw-on the surprisingly lightweight, brushed aluminium Night Sky MiniScope, launch the app and toggle-on ‘Miniscope mode’ in the settings. Incidentally, there’s also a tripod included that attaches to the undercarriage of the ‘scope (a must-use) and a lovely drawstring bag; this is top-notch product presentation, and the telescope itself is very impressive.

Aiming at the Moon

With the tripod attached, aim it at the Moon (it can take a while to get the Moon into view). The Night Sky app itself now includes some novel photography options within the app, including both a star­trails and a planet mode. However, neither proved usable, with the app itself crashing a few times. No, the Night Sky MiniScope is – as we had expected – all, and only, about capturing the Moon. We waited for a nice orange Full Moon-rise, though even after experimenting with both the manual focus and the digital focus of our iPhone, we failed to get any wowing images – just some fairly blurry images of the Moon.

Lacks sharpness

Abandoning the unreliable app, we used the iPhone’s own camera and modes to take a few snaps and a film a short time-lapse. All good fun, but the results lacked sharpness. Portable, lightweight and easy to use, the Night Sky MiniScope is a great concept, but lacks both finesse on the focus and a stable app; we’re waiting on version 2 for true lift-off.

Price as reviewed: £269

Buy the NightSkyMiniScope

See also:

BBC Sky At Night magazine: A guide to astro-phoneography: Zoom lenses

BBC Sky At Night magazine: A guide to astro-phoneography: Timelapse